Few genres have stood the test of time quite like the side-scrolling platformer. From its humble beginnings in the early days of gaming, the genre has evolved and flourished, giving rise to some of the most iconic and beloved titles in gaming history.
If you finished Super Mario Bros. Wonder and are looking for other side-scrollers that push the envelope of what’s possible in the genre, check out our list below.
14 top games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder
14 – Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)
We are cheating a bit by putting Super Mario Maker 2 on this list, but there’s a good reason. This was the game that was made before Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
The developers added a ton of new features after release it feels like a different game altogether, many of which made their way into Wonder. If you like Super Mario Bros. Wonder but haven’t tried Super Mario Maker 2, you are really missing out.
You can make your own levels as well as try out those made by others. Some player levels challenge Nintendo’s own development capabilities. Super Mario Maker 2 is definitely one of the best Mario games ever made, but we put it here so you wouldn’t get mad that it got unfair favoritism.
13 – Freedom Planet (2014)
Freedom Planet is a 2D side-scrolling action platformer that leans more into Sonic the Hedgehog than Mario. Freedom Planet features a fast-paced and fluid movement system that forces you to pay attention as you maneuver through the world. You have to carefully time your jumps and attacks to get past obstacles and enemies.
Its charming story and memorable cast of characters will compel you to find all of Freedom Planet’s secrets.
12 – Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)
Ori and the Blind Forest is a captivating 2D side-scrolling action-platformer that offers a stunning visual experience and a heartwarming story. Ori and the Blind Forest captivates players with its emotionally resonant narrative, stunning visuals, and beautiful soundtrack. This game gets slept on a lot, but it’s a classic of the genre.
Just like Super Mario Bros. Wonder, it excels as a side-scrolling platformer by providing precise controls and a gradual learning curve. With engaging level design and hidden secrets, both games in the series create a sense of wonder and exploration. The touching story, character development, and environmental puzzles make Ori an unforgettable side-scrolling experience.
11 – Unravel (2016)
Unravel is a compelling side-scroller that limits how far the player can go from checkpoint to checkpoint by its use of yarn. Its charm lies in its exquisite blend of captivating visuals, a heartfelt narrative, and ingenious puzzle-platformer gameplay. Players guide Yarny, a tiny character made of thread, through a beautifully rendered world that mirrors the wonders of nature.
The game not only showcases stunning graphics but also offers challenging puzzles that require players to creatively utilize Yarny’s abilities. The story itself is both sad and heart-felt and is told through the environment. You’ll definitely love this one.
10 – Little Big Planet (2008)
The first Little Big Planet is still the best in the series. The game paved the way for players to make their own platforming games before Mario did. It excels due to its charming, user-generated content and cooperative gameplay. The game’s adorable protagonist, Sackboy, is cute and a joy to control.
The single-player has a dynamic-level design that is easy to learn but difficult to master. It’s inspired by the best of classic platformers and has puzzle-solving with skill-based challenges. It also has user-generated levels that will challenge and thrill you. It’s one of my favorite games ever, and I’m eagerly awaiting Little Big Planet 4’s announcement.
9 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the game that introduced Super Sonic, Tails, and several iconic power-ups. It cleverly deployed 3D aspects in its minigames – revolutionary at the time – and had a soundtrack gamers still hum to this day.
Sonic is really the only competition Mario has ever had. This was peak SEGA. While Super Mario Bros. Wonder may be better, the games play similarly in some ways. It’s definitely still one of the best side-scrolling games around.
8 – Sonic Generations (2011)
Sonic Generations was released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and it celebrated by taking things to a whole new level.
The game features a unique mechanic that allows players to switch between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, each with their own unique playstyle. Classic Sonic plays like the Sonic games from the Genesis era, with a focus on speed and momentum. Modern Sonic plays like the Sonic games from the Dreamcast era and onward, with a focus on acrobatic moves and combat.
It’s a great side-scroller in its own right, but the real magic is in how it somehow made Sonic The Hedgehog 2 even made it better.
Related: 16 Best Pokemon spin-offs, ranked
6 – Rayman Origins (2011)
Sometimes people need to be reminded that Rayman, as a franchise, is a lot more than just where the Raving Rabbids, the Minions of video games. Rayman has starred in his own series of excellent side-scrolling platformers. Rayman Origins, the best in the series, features a variety of colorful and imaginative levels filled with secrets and challenges.
Its hand-drawn graphics and charming characters set it apart. The gameplay is equally impressive, with tight controls, creative level design, and a blend of platforming challenges that echo the best of the genre.
It strikes a perfect balance between accessibility for casual gamers and enough challenge for veterans of the platforming genre. It also came with a multiplayer mode that was a ton of fun to play with friends. Its sequel, Rayman Legends, is also great.
5 – Cuphead (2017)
Cuphead may seem like it’s more Mickey than Mario, but it is a sidescroller that brought a whole lot of innovation along with its gorgeous art design that pays homage to the golden age of animation.
But don’t let its charming, hand-drawn visuals fool you: Cuphead is one of the most difficult games on this list. I went to school for animation, and I legit cannot see why people prefer onion skin paper over digital, but Cuphead makes a great argument for the advantages of old-school animation techniques. If you are a big fan of retro and the classic era, this is the game for you.
4 – Super Meat Boy (2010)
Super Meat Boy was a flash game that became a full game in its own right. This was before indie games could be distributed easily; you had to get someone from Steam to greenlight your game before it could go on the platform.
It’s a game where you jump around as a meat boy, a boy made of meat, as you try to save his girlfriend. It’s a great and fun experience, especially because the meat sliding around adds to the challenge.
Super Meat Boy’s development became legendary thanks, in large part, to being featured in Indie Game: The Movie. Give it a watch if you want to witness firsthand the pitfalls and triumphs of independent game development back in the early 2010s, when indie gaming was just taking off.
3 – Hollow Knight (2017)
Hollow Knight is an all-timer, not just within its genre but across the entire medium of gaming. It’s a remarkable side-scrolling game due to its captivating blend of rich, hand-drawn art, deep lore, and challenging gameplay. I played it before I knew roguelites existed, and I really got beat down by it, but it was still enjoyable.
It shares the same timeless appeal as Super Mario Bros., offering an expansive, interconnected world filled with secrets and surprises. The game’s meticulous Metroidvania level design encourages exploration, and its intricate combat system rewards skill and strategy. I normally don’t like this kind of melancholic atmospheric storytelling, but I still loved exploring every one of Hollow Knight’s nooks and crannies to discover more of it’s rich and compelling lore.
2 – Shovel Knight (2014)
Don’t be dissuaded by Shovel Knight’s throwback graphical stylings. It is a modern classic in the world of side-scrolling platformers. Its brilliance lies in its homage to classic titles like Super Mario Bros., delivering tight controls, incredible level design, and a charming 8-bit aesthetic.
It combined nostalgic visuals with fresh gameplay mechanics and a versatile shovel for combat and exploration. The game has a bit of a difficulty curve but you’ll get used to it. It’s got memorable boss battles and a catchy chiptune soundtrack that echoes the glory days of retro gaming.
1 – Celeste (2018)
I did not have any interest in Celeste before a friend told me that it was his yearly go-to. It feels like it was made for people who struggle with mental health, and it deals with its lofty themes ina gentle, good-hearted way.
It’s challenging, to be sure, but its tight controls and clever level design make it manageable. The big draw here is in how it tells its heartfelt story through environment and gameplay. Celeste balances accessibility with depth, welcoming both casual and hardcore gamers. You’ll learn to love the art style if you’re not into pixel art.
Through its storytelling and gameplay Celeste will hit you right where it hurts before showing you that everything is going to be okay.
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